By Dr. Julie Hanks
As an LDS therapist, I most often hear two questions when working with people experiencing a faith transition: 1. How will I know when I am ready to talk about my faith change? and 2. How do I even have that conversation?
You are ready to tell loved ones about your faith transition once you’ve made the decision to talk to them about it. It can be as simple as that! You may feel a sense of urgency and think you have to make a decision to talk to them right now. Please don’t pressure yourself into talking about it before you are ready. It’s okay to give yourself time to decide; your personal belief systems and choices are yours, and you only have to share them if you want to.
Even if you do feel ready, it can still be scary to talk about your faith transition. You may be wondering how to bring it up, what to say, and how your loved ones will react to the news. Here are three simple steps you can take to begin the conversation:
- Ask your loved one(s) to select a time they are available to talk. Instead of springing the news on them, give them a heads up so they can be prepared for a hard conversation.
- Write down the main points of what you want to say. What do you want them to know? Bring this list with you so you can reference it if you get nervous or overwhelmed.
- Write down what you need from them. This can be things like how they can support you, questions you are and aren’t yet ready to discuss, or how you want your relationship to look now.
I recommend focusing on feelings and emotions instead of facts and events. In my course about managing family relationships during a faith transition, I recommend sharing things like, “I feel really hurt that I didn’t understand these things earlier in my life,” or “I know this is a hard change, but I’m still me.” It can also be helpful to express empathy for those you are speaking with. Here are some phrases that might be helpful:
- “I bet this is really hard for you because you love me and want what’s best for me.”
- “I imagine you’re disappointed. I’m making the best decision for me, and it’s okay if you’re upset.”
- “I know this is scary, but know that I love you and I’m committed to our relationship.”
Whether you’ve shifted out of the Church or even within the Church, your loved ones may be thrown for a loop by what you say. They may express grief, confusion, or even heartbreak at your decision. Guess what? It’s okay for them to feel disappointed, sad, or even angry. You can validate their emotions, but you are not responsible for their reaction or for protecting their feelings. You are responsible for being true to yourself.
All meaningful relationships will eventually experience hardships that require strong emotional bonds and commitment to overcome. A faith transition may come as a shock to your loved ones, but shared faith need not be the basis of your relationship. You can work together to build a bond of love that is strengthened by your differences.
If you are interested in learning more about communicating with loved ones about your faith transition, the following resources may be helpful for you:
- Dr. Julie Hanks Membership. Join a community of nuanced women who are personalizing their faith and revolutionizing their families. Includes access to all of my courses, monthly group coaching, a private Facebook group for community discussions, and more.
Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist, content creator, thought leader, online influencer, owner of Wasatch Family Therapy clinics in Utah, and host of the Ask Dr. Julie Hanks podcast. Dr. Hanks is the author of two books: The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide for Women. With nearly 30 years of clinical experience, Dr. Hanks provides online resources that empower women to prioritize their dreams, revolutionize their families, and personalize their faith. Connect with her on social media @drjuliehanks.